Introduction

According to political scientists, “development aid plays a pivotal role
as an economic reward and punishment mechanism between nations” (Dreher &
Fuchs, 2015. p. 989). Extensive literature on the relationship between the
allocation of aid by Western donors to – amongst others – African nations,
emphasizes that aid rather than serving the economic needs of the recipient
country is frequently given for political reasons (Kilby, 2011). With the
current redistribution of power by the rise of China in international relations,
foreign aid provided by countries such as China that are working outside the
official aid structure of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC), is
becoming ever more important as a tool to influence this distribution. Therefore,
a need to better understand this process is warranted.

            Recent
years have seen an increase in foreign aid from China to nations on the African
continent. Data from the China Africa Research initiative, shows that since the
beginning of this millennium, Chinese loan finance has increased sharply (China
Africa Research Initiative, 2017). In the period between 2000 and 2015, the
“Chinese government, banks and contractors extended US $94.4 billion worth of
loans to African governments and state-owned enterprises (SOEs)” (ibid.) For
this calendar year, 10 massive infrastructure projects are scheduled to launch,
aimed at further transforming the continent (Pheiffer, 2017).

            China’s increase in aid
expenditure to African nations has led to China being branded a ‘ rogue aid’
provider. This way, China is depicted as “the chief villain among the new
donors” (Dreher & Fuchs, 2015. p. 989). Naim (2007) explains the branding
of China as a ‘rogue aid’ provider by claiming that the goal of China’s aid
policy is “not to help other countries develop. Rather they are motivated by a
desire to further their own national interests, advance an ideological agenda,
or sometimes line their own pockets” (Naim, 2007). China specifically is
accused of using “their largesse to curry political favor with developing
countries, secure unfair commercial advantages for their domestic firms, and
support corrupt and authoritarian regimes that are rich in natural resources”
(Dreher, Fuchs, Parks, Strange & Tierney, 2016. p. 3).

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            The use of foreign
policies, such as foreign aid policies, to attract a desirable outcome is known
in the social sciences as ‘soft power’. According to Nye (1990), ‘soft power’
is a proces of applying attraction in order to get what you want (p. 166). Over
the past decades, Chinese has made Africa of particular importance to its
foreign policy. However, political scientists disagree on China’s intentions.
Some argue that China has only exploitative intentions in Africa, or is only
interested in challenging U.S. hegemony (Chan, 2012. p. 9), while others argue
that China has genuinely peaceful intentions and sees Africa as an equal
partner (Bodomo, 2009. p. 171). The issue of whether China uses its foreign aid
policy as a ‘soft power’ instrument to attract desirable outcomes is relevant
when assessing how China can influence the current balance of power between
nations and how other countries can respond to this. For the purpose of this
paper, I focus on the relationship between foreign aid provided by China to
African donor recipients, and these recipients stance on the ‘One-China’
policy, voting behavior in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and
membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). More specifically, I
investigate whether a realist or liberal perspective best explains this
relationship. 

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